Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Thinking fourth dimensionally - Sidepodcast reversed - We made the back of the site just as good looking as the front

Published by Mr. C

One piece of listener/reader feedback that kept coming back to us since our most recent redesign, was the need to make it easier to discover when live events were taking place on the site.

So this is what Sidepodcast looks like when you turn it over

In February we added a neat little information box to the sidebar listing upcoming and past events, but limited space meant it provided only the briefest of overviews.

Start times happen to be pretty important when it comes to online meet-ups, so we've found some unused space to squeeze those extra facts in.

If you're using a reasonably modern web browser, you can now tap the 'rotating arrow' icon (top right of the sidebar events box) to reveal thread/event start times.

Previously we've tucked additional content away behind expanding panels, but this is the first time we've hidden data in a whole other dimension - and you don't need to don a pair silly glasses to enjoy it.

The only downside to such new functionality is the temptation to turn the whole site into a massive Rubik's cube. What might the reverse of this post look like if only we could see it?

Take your brain to another dimension

On a related site development front, Davin asked a question today relating to the absence of social media buttons on this site. Sidepodcast was one of the earliest adopters of the handy little buttons and now we're one of the first sites to drop them, so it's worth a quick explanation as to why.

Firstly, said buttons might well return in the future, they are after all a convenient means of saving and sharing content you're interested in. There is though a trade-off between features and site performance and these days we're more conscious then ever of the impact third party buttons have on such things, especially since we're focusing ever more on a bandwidth constrained mobile browsing experience.

Seeing as extra dimensions are the hot topic of the day, here is a 3D representation (thanks to Firefox) of the underlying code powering the homepage of Sidepodcast's sister site, F1Minute, which still features social buttons. In this view, blocks represent elements on a page and the flatter the stack of blocks, the better.

F1Minute's hidden city
F1Minute's hidden city

In the above image, the pair of spires that reach far out from the page represent Twitter (left), G+ (middle) and Facebook (right) buttons. With the latter pair clearly containing a disproportionate quantity of blocks compared to the rest of the page. This extra code can affect, amongst other things, page load times and redraw performance. When you have a streamlined page layout, as both this site and F1Minute do, less efficient code really starts to stand out.

Incidentally, if you refresh the F1Minute homepage you'll see the buttons fade in after the initial load, delaying them in this manner helps mitigate some of the problem, but not all of it.

We have considered offering a toggle switch for anyone who really would like to have the convenience of these options, regardless of any potential drawbacks. There is though another interesting movement happening on the internet at the moment and that is the inclusion of sharing buttons built into the browser itself.

If you own an iPhone or iPad you can already share a page directly to Twitter (and soon Facebook too), ditto if you've recently upgraded to the latest version of OS X. When Windows 8 ships in a few months, it also will offer page sharing directly from the desktop. You can expect more and more browsers to support more and more social eco-systems going forward, and if users are able to tailor their devices to the services they're interested in, what is the point of duplicating this on a web page itself?

The latest way to share a post

All said, we might one day re-introduce social buttons, but it's not a massive priority and eventually their purpose ought to become obsolete anyhow.

Notably, one thing we currently do support is the sharing of specific comments to Twitter (click any comment heading to reveal a sharing link). We've done this because a comment is only ever part of a page, rather than a page in its own right. Facebook have never supported links to partial pages, so it's Twitter or nothing.

There's more fun stuff on the Sidepodcast horizon, but if you'll excuse me for now, I'm off to turn the homepage into a giant game of Jenga.